After a stellar performance in a gut-wrenching 30-29 loss to Howard on Friday, Central senior quarterback Derrick Evans is finally receiving the recognition head coach Jesse Hicks so fully believes his quarterback deserves.
Evans’ 340 total yards and four touchdowns are about what Hicks and the Chargers have come to expect.
“A lot of it comes from a lot of hard work this summer,” Evans said. “We worked very hard this summer just preparing for these moments, so I have a great offensive line and group of receivers that help out with a lot of those things. If we can just keep working hard, keep grinding at practice, we can keep the stat line up for everybody.”
Central fell to 1-1 with the one-point loss to Howard in which the Chargers missed a 34-yard game-winning field goal try. Evans called the loss “a little disappointing” because of his effectiveness but nevertheless considered it one of the best game he has been a part of in his high school career. He just wishes the final drive ended differently.
“I knew I had at least enough time to get my field goal kicker enough to where he wanted to kick the ball,” Evans said of his mindset before the drive. “I feel like I gave him a pretty good shot. I just wish I could have gotten it in the middle of the field for him, because he likes kicking from the middle.”
That was one of few errors for Evans on the night. He tormented Howard’s defense through the air and on the ground, prompting the Huskies head Barney Hester to say, “That Central quarterback had a thousand yards, didn’t he?”
Evans had 295 yards through the air and 45 on the ground, to be exact. He said he found success because of Howard’s defensive game plan. While the Huskies brought pressure -- which the Chargers’ offensive line handled -- they gave Evans a cushion to run the ball.
And because of his playing style -- a dual-threat quarterback who likes to use his feet to pass -- Evans took advantage of the Huskies’ plan. Keeping the play alive, according to Hicks, is one of Evans’ greatest strengths.
“He hurts you running; he hurts you throwing the ball,” he said. “He does put a lot of added pressure on them once he starts to roll. ‘Am I going to tackle this guy, or am I going to leave an area open?’ ”
But Evans doesn’t simply use his legs to gain yards on the ground. He extends plays and said he likes “getting others involved more than myself.”
“I love throwing on the run,” Evans said. “And my receivers, we have a connection to find each other and know where to be at a certain time, so that was a great thing I had Friday, just getting out of the pocket and finding what to work with my receivers.”
Hicks called Evans, who’s playing only his second year at quarterback after playing wide receiver and defensive back his first two years, a “difference maker” and the “real deal” as a leader. Evans mentors younger players, and his intangibles made Hicks’ decision to move him to quarterback an easy one.
“He’s got ‘it.’ Whatever ‘it’ is, he’s got it,” Hicks said. “He’s got the ‘it’ factor.”
So Evans needed a nickname to fit his persona. But what would fit his play-making, dual-threat, keeping-the-play-alive style?
“We call him the ‘Magic Man,’ ” Hicks said. “He makes things happen. That’s the big thing you take away when you watch Derrick.”
Still, Hicks believes Evans has not gotten the same recognition that other quarterbacks in the area have received. Hicks points to Evans’ height (6-foot), limited time at the position and the stigma that he’s a running quarterback as reasons for that.
But none of those issues concern Hicks.
“From a performance level on a football field, I don’t know if there’s another quarterback doing what he does for their football team right now,” Hicks said of Evans.
Despite the loss to Howard, the individual performance was a win for Evans. Prior to the game, the senior had received major interest from programs such as Navy and Georgia Southern, while Georgia Tech, West Georgia and Kennesaw State had shown some interest.
But after Friday night’s performance, Hicks sent out tape from the first three games of the year -- including Central’s scrimmage in which Evans threw for over 700 yards. And Hicks already has received positive feedback from mid-major programs.
“(Todd Goebbel) at Marshall is saying he really feels this kid can play quarterback,” Hicks said of the Thundering Herd’s tight end coach.
And that’s the question coaches ask Hicks, “Do you think he’s a quarterback?”
Hicks dismisses that question since he currently has Evans playing the position. He firmly believes Evans can play at any collegiate level and always responds to the question with, “He’s a quarterback that’s got athletic ability.”
“And a lot of times, guys don’t like to hear that because they’re looking for a conventional, stand-in-the-pocket 6-foot-4 guy who can sling it,” Hicks said. “But if you’re looking for a football player, they’re going to overlook a good one if they don’t come here and take a look at (Evans).”